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New, affordable, lofts to replace vacant building downtown

By: Genevieve Curtis
EL PASO, Texas - It's downtown El Paso and the living can be hard to find. 

"I think that's what is missing," said Paul Gilcrease, of Bearing Development.
Gilcrease and his business partner, T.J. Karam, have successfully turned old, vacant buildings in downtown El Paso into unique living spaces, like the First Avenue Lofts. 
They're planning to do the same to the building at 120 S. Stanton St.
The first floor of the building hosts retail. But above that are three vacant floors; Bearing Development plans to turn those empty spaces into 27 lofts.
Downtown living is necessary for the revitalization taking place but the city is certainly behind the curve.

"It's never been a lack of demand, it's been a lack of supply, the right kind of supply, at the right price," said Karam.
The team said they found the right investors to back the project, the El Paso Housing Finance Corporation, a public non-profit.

To be clear, this is not public housing. EPHFC involvement assures that the rents will be reasonable and at a price that someone making the city's median income could afford. It's geared for every-day El Pasoans.
"Someone who is making in the $50,000 to $60,000 range," said Adrian Duran, the executive director of the EPHFC.

It's a unique move for the public entity, but it's been done in other cities.
"Always thought, why not El Paso? This project that gives us this opportunity," said Duran.
The public/private partnership aims to give El Pasoans the kind of living spaces they want at prices they'll like.
"People are really craving something they can afford to live in but something that has all the amenities of a new project," said Karam.
While transforming the building into a desirable address, they're also leading the way for others.
"Hopefully, it's the first of many that will happen in the future," said Duran.
Gilcrease noticed city zoning code for the surrounding area wasn't friendly for apartment style development because it didn't take into account the amount of floors.
He submitted new wording and created a better blue print for those who follow.
"It will make it easier for any other developer or owner who wants do multi-family development downtown," said Gilcrease.
In addition to the 27 new lofts, the residence will feature a rooftop terrace area, a light shaft and other new amenities plus the convenience and accessibility that comes with living downtown.
The new residence is named "The Savoy," an homage to the hotel that once called the building home.

It's a name from the past for a building with a future, weaving the old El Paso with the new downtown.
"It really makes it a unique success story for the city of El Paso," said Karam.
Construction on The Savoy is expected to start in May.